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What You Need to Know After Hockey Canada's Hearing from July 26

Hockey Canada’s alleged involvement in sexual assaults in 2018 was again under scrutiny by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage Wednesday. Here's what happened.
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Hockey Canada’s alleged involvement in sexual assaults in 2018 was again under scrutiny by the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage Wednesday.

Providing testimony was Danielle Robitaille of Toronto law firm Henein Hutchison LLP, who was hired by Hockey Canada to lead an “independent investigation” in 2018. That included Sport Canada senior director Michel Ruest, deputy minister of Canadian heritage Isabelle Mondou, and Canada’s Minister of Sport Pascale St-Onge.

The three-hour proceeding began with testimony from Robitaille. Of note in Robitaille’s testimony were discussions of how the sexual assault accusations were initially handled in 2018 by Hockey Canada staff, how many members of the 2018 team took part in the investigation freely, and what the purposes of Henein Hutchison’s hiring was at the time.

According to Robitaille, when she initially informed Hockey Canada staffer Glen McCurdie of the need to contact London, Ont. police regarding the alleged assault in 2018, he replied saying he "needed to connect with senior leadership before acting on that advice."

During her initial investigation in 2018, only 10 members o the 19 Canada’s World Junior Championship roster present at the London gala event that preceded the alleged sexual assault were interviewed. Seven players would not participate until a police investigation was complete. Two refused participation completely at the time.

According to Robitaille, the mandate of her investigation from Hockey Canada “was to discover the truth, to learn what happened in London." She also identified several policies and procedures that could be improved upon by Hockey Canada.

When asked to elaborate or provide more information related to these policies, Robitaille responded on multiple occasions that she had been instructed to invoke client/solicitor privilege by Hockey Canada on said topics. Related to policy improvements, Robitaille stated that "implementation and compliance were not part of my mandate."

Moving forward, one aspect clarified in the hearing was the ramifications for any player who does not participate in future investigations and interviews. Robitaille confirmed that any player who does not cooperate will receive a lifetime ban from Hockey Canada and that those details will be made public.

Next to testify were Ruest and Mondou. NDP MP Peter Julian took the lead in questioning in this section, repeatedly asking Ruest about who the report was initially forwarded to at Sport Canada. He also clarified that although Sport Canada mandates third-party reporting systems to be in place by Canada’s sport bodies, it does not follow up to ensure said systems are active, or bodies such as Hockey Canada are complying.

Finally, St-Onge testified. St-Onge spoke on several topics including questions regarding the diversity and make-up of staff, executives, and board members within hockey Canada, specifically asking “are there enough women” involved. St-Onge also testified that athletes and officials are concerned that the independent investigation conducted, and the mechanisms of the investigation were "not independent enough." This point was also discussed during Robitaille’s testimony, but when asked about reporting to the Hockey Canada board of directors, she claimed client/solicitor privilege.

St-Onge also spoke on the fund used to pay victims of sexual assault saying "I share in parents indignation...Hockey Canada has an obligation to be transparent to people who are giving them money."

The Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage will again hear testimony for the fourth day in their investigation into the alleged 2018 assaults on Wed. July 27. The current investigation and inquiry does not involve more recent revelations of allegations involving similar group sexual violence from 2003.

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